Four-time Olympian and 12-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte missed making the U.S. Olympic Team for the first time in five Olympic cycles on Friday night.
He still holds three World Records: the 200 LCM IM, which he set at 1:54.00 at the 2011 World Championships, and the 200 SCM IM, which he set at the 2012 Short Curse World Championships. Lochte’s 400 SCM IM World Record, which he set in 2010, stood for 9 years until Japan’s Daiya Seto broke it in December 2019 during the International Swimming League.
He has also been a part of every gold medal-winning 800 freestyle relay at the Olympic Games since 2004.
Lochte’s Olympic Medals:
- 800 Freestyle Relay, gold (2004)
- 200 IM, silver (2004)
- 200 Back, gold (2008)
- 800 Freestyle Relay, gold. (2008)
- 200 IM, bronze (2008)
- 400 IM, bronze (2008)
- 400 IM, gold (2012)
- 800 Freestyle Relay, gold (2012)
- 200 IM, silver (2012)
- 400 Freestyle Relay, silver (2012)
- 200 Back, bronze (2012)
- 800 Freestyle Relay, gold (2016)
In 2012, articles surrounding Lochte at the Olympics described him as him “playful” and goofy. The Washington Post wrote that Lochte “had clowned around” on the podium with Michael Phelps despite not winning the gold. He was often portrayed as a loveable guy and an impressive athlete.
That all changed after the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Lochte and three other U.S. Olympic swimmers (Jimmy Feigen, Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger) initially alleged they were robbed at gunpoint in Rio. Globo.com and other media outlets soon reported evidence that the robbery story was fabricated, showing damage was done to the bathroom door, soap dispenser, paper towel dispenser and a bathroom sign, and that the swimmers wanted to leave without paying for the damages.
A storm ensued. Lochte was handed a 10-month suspension from USA Swimming and big sponsors dropped him including Speedo and Ralph Lauren.
His documentary “In Deep” starts off with the trouble Rio and delves into his journey to a hopeful comeback and qualification for 2020 Olympics. He rebuilt his brand the next couple of years by issuing apologies on social media, competing on Dancing With the Stars, and signing sponsorship deals with Powerbar, debt.com, and Pine Bros.
In 2018, Lochte was issued a 14-month ban for receiving intravenous infusions in a volume greater than 100mL in a 12-hour period without a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE). He did not fight the decision.
In 2019, Lochte went on the reality TV show Big Brother where he opened up about the ‘Rio gas station’ incident‘. Part of his motivation to go on the show was because he wanted people to “see the real [him]… and not just the headlines.”
Legacy On and Off the Pool Deck
Lochte is known for being attentive to his fans.
One signature Lochte move, which, granted is not unique to him alone, is to throw his cap and / or goggles into the crowd after every race. Now the next generation of Olympians, including Caeleb Dressel, has taken to doing that at the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials. Lochte did it after his finals race on Friday.
On social media, people have described their experiences meeting Lochte. One person detailed Lochte having the option to sneak into his hotel without being seen, an understandable move by a famous swimmer in the midst of the 2012 Olympic Trials. Instead, he walked through the front door and embraced the swarm of fans by signing autographs.
Many other encounters detailed Lochte’s patience with fans and willingness to sign autographs.
When my son was 4 and we were at UltraSwim, Lochte gave my son one of his race medals because (he said) he liked my son’s skull-patterned shirt. Made my kid’s day. Now he’s a teenage swimmer. Nice when the good batons get passed.
— entropygoddess⁷🥞 (@entropygoddess) June 19, 2021
When I watched trials in Omaha in 2012, Ryan Lochte was by far the kindest to fans. He walked in the normal doors (not the secret upstairs hotel-pool hallway like many others) and signed autograph after autograph as people swarmed around him. I’ll never forget it. https://t.co/0mwwECkIMB
— Ember McCoy (@embermc) June 17, 2021
— Katie Brez (@kmbres4) June 29, 2012
All these years people have criticized (sometimes fairly, oftentimes not) Ryan I always think of Charlotte Ultraswim 13 where he signed stuff for kids for HOURS until everyone got something.
— Eve and Candace (@EveandCandace) June 17, 2021
say what you want about Ryan Lochte, but he was the always so nice to me as a little kid every time i would see him at a swim meet and ask for an autograph
— 🙂 (@foquslab) January 27, 2021
Lochte has also been involved in charity work. He is currently the spokesperson for both the Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy (Duchenne) and the Mac Crutchfield Foundation. Lochte lost a close relative to Duchenne disease and his relation to the latter is swim-related.
The Mac Crutchfield Foundation raises awareness for drowning and it was named after a 12-year-old swimmer who drowned during a thunderstorm in 2008.
Lochte makes annual donations to the Parent Project and is “heavily involved” in the two annual charity events hosted by the Mac Crutchfield Foundation: a fund-raising dinner and a charity golf tournament.
Family and Future
Lochte, now a husband and father of two children, is very family-oriented He ended his post-race interview in finals with the statement: “I’m gonna go be a dad right now and give my kids a hug.”
His wife, Kayla Reid, and 2-year-old daughter were there to see him make the 200 IM final on Thursday:
— #TokyoOlympics (@NBCOlympics) June 18, 2021
In his post-race press conference, Lochte said “swimming has taken me so far … and what swimming’s done for me and my family is unbelievable to me.”
“…Falling short and feeling like I let everyone down was one of the hardest things, but I had my family there. My kids, they got to watch their daddy swim … that means everything to me….”
“This is not the last you’re gonna see of me, whether it’s in the swimming pool or outside the pool, trying to make this sport bigger.” He explained wanting to increase the reach of the sport, putting swimming “in everyone’s living rooms” on television more often. He mentioned the disparity between the publicity of sports like basketball and swimming, one of the most-watched sports in the Olympics.